Between Gratitude and Hope

Tuesday evening marked a very special occasion for me, on an intensely personal level.  I was privileged to lead my congregation in the recitation of Kol Nidreh, which is said at the beginning of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

It was more than 20 years ago that I first started leading services on the High Holy Days, first at a synagogue in Staten Island, then in Wesley Hills, NY, Buffalo, NY, and then for a few years, as a paid position in Baltimore and, finally, in Israel.  The last time I was able to do so was in the fall of 2010, one year prior to my diagnosis, as in 2011 I was too ill – although I didn’t know why – to participate.

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to this year, but thankfully I was feeling strong enough and, at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, I took my place on the bimah, the elevated platform toward the middle of the synagogue, as two Torah scrolls were brought out and held on either side of me.

There are several variations of Kol Nidreh, and all are simply annulments of vows.  All formulations refer to vows we may make in the coming year, while others refer first to vows made over the previous year, as well as those in the coming 12 months.  In our synagogue we say the latter.

Singing those words – “From Yom Kippur past to this Yom Kippur, and from this Yom Kippur to the next Yom Kippur, which should come to us for the good” – was when I was first overcome with emotion.  Then, again, emotion was running strong at the conclusion of the Kol Nidreh, when we recite a blessing of thanks for being able to reach this milestone.

In an instant I was caught between two distinct yet powerful feelings.

On the one hand, I thought about everything that has happened, not only in the past 12 months, but really over the past five years since I was last able to participate in leading services.  The gratitude I had was overwhelming.  Five years is a milestone when it comes to cancer. In no way am I cured or close to it. But, I was able to do something I haven’t done in years.

On the other hand, I thought about the coming 12 months.  In the best of circumstances, we have no way of knowing what will happen in the future, near or far. But I couldn’t help but feel hopeful as I stood in representation of the congregation, strong enough at least for the moment, to lead them in prayer.

Gratitude and hope are two emotions that, I think, play off one another quite nicely. You certainly don’t need one to have the other, but experienced together the result is exponentially sweet and a wonderful way to start off the New Year.


About Alan

F---ing Cancer since 2011.
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8 Responses to Between Gratitude and Hope

  1. Tirtza says:

    I’ve got tears in my eyes. … I’m so happy you were strong enough to daven for the amud….I’m so sorry i missed it

    I was actually thinking of you a few days ago, how i missed texting you wishing that all your prayers on our behalf should be accepted and answered…now I feel like a fool for not having sent it

    May this year being you refuah shelema and all the best!

    • Alan says:

      Thanks for the good words, and no need to feel like a fool! We all get busy, especially at this time of the year.

      Best to you and yours, as well.

  2. Michael J. Berkowitz says:

    Shana Tova! & Yashar Koach!!!

  3. Cheryl Munk says:

    Happy new year, Alan. It should be a healthy and sweet one for you and your family. Your posts are so meaningful and I am so happy you were able to lead Kol Neidre. I am sure your family and friends also felt tremendous nachas at seeing and hearing you! I was smiling just reading your post. To be there in person I am sure was meaningful for all.

    All the best. Cheryl

  4. yehuda mermelstein says:

    once again…..i am speechless…… very emotional

  5. Chaim silva says:

    כל הכבוד. I wish I was there May we all have a year of health , happiness, and peace

  6. Debbie Gelfand says:

    Beautiful and inspirational!! I wish you an amazing year of health, happiness, and meaning to you and your beautiful family!

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